Beauty And The Beast

I am on vacation this week, so this musing may be a little lighter than usual.

As I sit watching the snow gently accumulate on the deck and the evergreens outside the window, I have been thinking about how easy it is to miss things. We are in Colorado for summer vacation, and yes, I do see the irony that we drove 13 hours to vacation where it is snowing in June. I had read a story about the Disney suit against vidAngel, which made me think of Beauty and the Beast. Then I drove 13 hours, (I think 12.5 was across Kansas), which made me both really bored and really amazed. We ended up in Breckenridge in a house with beautiful views and snow falling around us.

Through this all, I was amazed at how much beauty there is all around me. I know, you’re thinking, “He’s in the mountains in Colorado, of course there is beauty all around him.” You are right about that, however, on the drive we stopped in Goodland KS for a Subway sandwich and I took a picture of purple thistles surrounded by little bluish-purple flowers in the vacant lot behind the Subway. They were stunning (and reminded me of Eeyore.) Along the way I was mesmerized by the random patterns of the wind generators, the patchwork fields spread out around me, and the clouds hovering in blue over the rolling landscape. Even the regular and consistent line of the interstate stretching out before me seemed art-like.

There is macro and micro beauty everywhere. Sometimes it is easy to see, but more often it requires effort and a certain amount of practice. Often, we let the meso-level things around us grab our attention and we miss the best stuff. Allow me to expand that a little.

Driving to Colorado, I could have chosen to focus on my immediate surroundings and conditions—the temp inside the car, how long we have left to go, the music choices of my teenage sons, or the other cars and trucks in my way—and found plenty to be unhappy about. In many ways, a 13-hour car trip is a beast. However, I had the ability to choose to focus on the macro—the varied and patterned landscape, windmills, and baby cows. Or again, I could also find things in the micro—flowers at a rest stop, a song I like, white cheddar Cheezits.

The central theme of Beauty and the Beast, for me, is that things are often what we chose to make them. The towns people choose to see Bell and the Beast as an odd girl and a hideous creature. But they are both much more. I have to choose to see purple flowers instead of just an empty lot full of trash. I have to choose to find joy in hearing a favorite song instead of being irritated I’m not controlling the music. Often, switching to a macro-level view or a micro-level view can help us escape the hold of the meso-level stuff that is currently less than we would like. Changing my point of view is under my control, changing my circumstances often is not.

Travelling can provide an opportunity to have experiences and see new things. The ability to travel is high on my gratefulness list. However, we can find beauty wherever we are and in the things that are often overlooked and underappreciated. “I have traveled a great deal in Concord,” said Henry Thoreau, a native of…wait for it…Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau knew that there was a great deal to see and learn and do in his own town if only he had the eyes to see.

I will enjoy this week in the mountains. There is so much macro and micro beauty it would be difficult to miss. I will also keep watch for the unexpected and overlooked. My hope for you is that you will also choose to see beauty where few find it and understand that there is more to a beast than what we first see.